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Can J Public Health. 2012 Jan-Feb;103(1):76-80.

Parental characteristics associated with childcare use during the first 4 years of life: results from a representative cohort of Québec families.

Author information

  • 1MRC Center of Epidemiology for Child Health, Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Institute of Child Health, University College London, London, England. m.geoffroy@ich.ucl.ac.uk



Studies have shown that children growing up in socio-economically disadvantaged families have poorer cognitive scores than children growing up in more advantaged families, and that high-quality childcare services can reduce this gap. This effect may be attenuated, however, if disadvantaged families are less likely than better-off families to use childcare and if they use childcare of lower quality. The aim of this study was to identify factors related to parental decisions to use formal and informal childcare.


Data were obtained from the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development, a birth cohort of children born in 1997/1998 in the Canadian province of Quebec (n=1,504). Children receiving formal (e.g., family and centre) and informal (e.g., grandparents, aunt, nanny) childcare from 5 months to 4 years of age were compared to those receiving exclusively parental care on key psycho-socio-economic family factors.


Maternal unemployment during pregnancy, younger maternal age (at initiation of childbearing) and higher number of siblings (e.g., > or = 2) were related to a lower probability of a child receiving either formal or informal childcare (compared to parental care). In addition, low levels of maternal education, higher levels of overprotection, and lower levels of home stimulation were related to a lower probability of a child receiving formal childcare, but not informal childcare. Insufficient income was not associated with childcare use.


Maternal education and maternal employment were the main socio-economic barriers to childcare participation in a province offering low-cost childcare services. Future initiatives may consider prioritizing childcare access to underserved children and other (e.g., literacy-based) interventions to facilitate access.

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